Reconstructive microsurgery: What patients should know

Sometimes our surgeons must perform life-altering surgeries to remove cancer. And, in many cases, cancer surgeries have the potential to dramatically change a patient’s physical appearance or lifestyle. But through reconstructive microsurgery, our plastic surgeons are often able to help patients return to their normal appearance or lifestyle. Microsurgery allows surgeons to perform procedures that were once impossible, and they’re using these tools to improve surgery every day. In fact, each year, MD Anderson’s 21 plastic surgeons perform more than 1,000 microsurgeries to reconstruct patients from head to toe. Many of these surgeries are breast reconstruction, when surgeons use the patient’s tissue to create new breasts after a mastectomy. But surgeons may also use this technique for reconstructing other parts of the body.   To learn more about microsurgery, we spoke with plastic surgeons Alexander Mericli, M.D., and Carrie Chu, M.D. Here’s what they had to say. What is microsurgery? Microsurgery gets its name because it refers to surgery performed using a microscope. During microsurgery, we use precise microsurgical instruments that allow us to reconnect very small blood vessels, nerves and lymphatic vessels with very tiny stitches – some thinner than a hair and difficult to see with the human eye. We often use microsurgery in conjunction with other surgeries, such as tumor removal and reconstruction, to reconstruct complicated areas that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. Among other things, we use microsurgery to: reconstruct breast cancer patients’ breasts using tissue from their abdomen or other parts of their bodies rebuild jaws using a bone from the leg, shoulder, arm or hip, or reconstruct tongues with skin and fat from the...